Provision of information held by Northumbria Police made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the 'Act')
As you may be aware the purpose of the Act is to allow a general right of access to information held at the time of a request, by a Public Authority (including the Police), subject to certain limitations and exemptions.
I am writing to you under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to request the following information for your district:
- Number of speed cameras
- Camera activation threshold for them
After clarification was sought you provided the following information:
By district, I mean the area that your police force covers.
By number of speed cameras, I mean how many actual static speed cameras you have within the area your police force covers.
By camera activation threshold, I mean, at what point does the speed camera activate? Is it 1mph beyond the speed limit for the road it is on, or 2mph or more? At what speed would it be triggered?
Following receipt of your request, searches were conducted within the Road Safety Unit of Northumbria Police. I can confirm that the information you have requested is held, in part, by Northumbria Police.
I am able to disclose the located information to you as follows.
- We have 42 static speed cameras within the force area, however there are also Average Speed Camera systems in our force area which are owned by the National Highways (formerly Highways England) and the 6 Local Authorities. You would need to contact those organisations for information they may hold on their equipment as we do not hold this information.
- The information requested at this point will not be disclosed as the below exemption has been considered and applied as relevant:
Section 31(1)(a)(b) (Law Enforcement)
Section 31 of the Act (Law Enforcement) states that information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to prejudice:
(a) The prevention or detection of crime
(b) The apprehension or prosecution of offenders
This exemption is a qualified and prejudice based exemption and therefore the legislators accept that there may be harm if released into the public domain. The authority has to consider and describe the harm that would occur if the information were released and carry out a public interest test. In accordance with best practice, I detail the harm first.
To disclose information detailing camera activation threshold would impact on Northumbria Police ability to deal with speeding offences. Those with the intent to do so may then be under the impression that by not exceeding that threshold, and not the actual speed restriction, such offences are less likely to be caught on speed cameras. This would obviously impact on the Police service’s ability to protect the public it serves and could prejudice its ability to perform core functions such as Law Enforcement.
Disclosing the requested information would inform the public at what speed is more or less likely to result in a fine. This would diminish the effectiveness of safety cameras and undermine police enforcement.
If motorists were aware of precise speed threshold this could allow individuals to travel at what they perceive to be the highest speed where they are likely to evade detection, this limit may nevertheless exceed the national speed limit. Speeding above the stated limit is an offence and withholding this information from the public ensures that any driver who exceeds the speed limit would maintain the perception that they are risking criminal liability.
Public Interest Test
Factors favouring disclosure
The release of the information would demonstrate the openness of the organisation to make such matters public. Disclosure would contribute to the accuracy and quality of public debate
Factors favouring non-disclosure
Disclosing the requested information would enable the public to establish exactly what speed tolerances are being enforced at multiple locations informing them where they are likely to get away with excessive speeding.
Police rely on the perception by drivers that the law is enforced at the posted speed limit. If this information was disclosed then drivers would know when they can and cannot pass specific sites at a speed above the statutory limit. This would render the purpose of the camera site at these locations obsolete and would undermine police enforcement of the established speed limit. Disclosure would therefore hinder law enforcement. It would also require an increased Police presence throughout the force area which would put an unnecessary strain on its resources.
The effectiveness of speed enforcement relies on the perception that the chances of being recorded are high at all sites. The release of this type of information would encourage further similar requests which would allow drivers to deduce by a process of elimination those locations where the risk of being caught is more or less likely. This would reduce the effectiveness of safety camera technology and impact on road safety.
As much as there is a public interest in knowing the tolerance at which speed cameras trigger speeding infringements, what is of interest to the public is not always in the public interest.
Keeping the nation’s roads safe is of paramount importance to the Police. To disclose this information will prejudice forces’ ability nationally to prevent and detect crime and will increase the risk of accidents, some of which will be fatal.
The public entrust the Police Service to make appropriate decisions with regard to their safety and protection. In this case, being cautious with what is put into the public domain will maintain our ability to prevent crime and maintain public safety. Therefore it is our opinion that the balancing test weighs strongly in favour of non-disclosure.
Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from a number of data sources used by forces for police purposes. The detail collected to respond specifically to your request is subject to the inaccuracies inherent in any large scale recording system. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when interpreting those data.
The figures provided therefore are our best interpretation of relevance of data to your request, but you should be aware that the collation of figures for ad hoc requests may have limitations and this should be taken into account when those data are used.
If you decide to write an article / use the enclosed data we would ask you to take into consideration the factors highlighted in this document so as to not mislead members of the public or official bodies, or misrepresent the relevance of the whole or any part of this disclosed material.
Due to the different methods of recording information across 43 forces, a specific response from one constabulary should not be seen as an indication of what information could be supplied (within cost) by another. Systems used for recording these figures are not generic, nor are the procedures used locally in capturing the data. For this reason responses between forces may differ, and should not be used for comparative purposes.
The information we have supplied to you is likely to contain intellectual property rights of Northumbria Police. Your use of the information must be strictly in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended) or such other applicable legislation. In particular, you must not re-use this information for any commercial purpose.